At the start of the season, Sir Dave Brailsford promised us a new-look Ineos. An Ineos that had enjoyed being liked so much during Tao Geoghegan Hart’s surprise Giro d’Italia win that they wanted to change the way they raced. Permanently. The idea was to stop trying to control, and start trying to entertain.

This spring classics campaign has proven that this change in philosophy has borne fruit.

Today in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, while Ineos’ tactics didn’t quite deliver a victory, they did deliver plenty of entertainment value.
Tao Geoghegan Hart was the first rider deployed in the serious end of the race. The Giro champ started putting on the pressure on the iconic Cöte de la Redoute climb, helping to shred down the peloton and create the first serious selection of the race. Initially, his hard work managed to isolate Julian Alaphilippe who missed the move and ended up in a second chasing group.

That – as we know from the race’s eventual podium – was not the end of Alaphilippe’s day, but it did serve to really light the touch paper for the remaining 35 kilometres. Adam Yates also leant his considerable climbing strength to the cause of breaking up the race, with his work serving to set up what was inarguably the single most exciting move of the race – Richard Carapaz’ doomed solo move. The Ecuadorian former Giro champ managed to get a healthy gap at one point, but was ultimately brought back by the chasing favourites. He was also disqualified after the race by the commissaires who deemed he had used the banned super-tuck position at one point during his solo attack.
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Carapaz is a fine example of a signing that caused dismay among Team Sky’s detractors, who felt it would mean the end of his attacking style, the style which ultimately won him the Giro in 2019. It’s days like this that prove their fears were unfounded.

Ineos didn’t play the day perfectly. They tried as hard as they could to drop the top names – Roglič, Alaphilippe, Pogacar – but ultimately they expended so much energy between 35 and 15km to go trying to do so that when Michael Woods launched an attack of his own to setup the eventual winning move, the British squad was unable to respond. Michal Kwiatkowski was involved in the chaseback effort with Roglič, but the team came away empty-handed.

Still, it has not been a bad spring, thanks in no small part to the efforts of one of the team’s newest signings; Tom Pidcock.

Pidcock was absent today, having not quite recovered from the crash he had midweek at La Flèche Wallonne. The crash didn’t slow him down too badly, he got second in the race, but the team felt it was better to be safe than sorry. We won’t see Pidcock riding in a Grenadiers outfit now until La Vuelta – he has Olympic ambitions on the mountain bike to focus on instead – but his results have been eye-opening.

Highlights: Tom Pidcock takes huge win at Brabantse Pijl

We saw him grab a podium at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, before mixing it with the cyclocross superstars (and his heroes growing up) Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel in Strade Bianche. Illness limited his ability to perform at Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Ronde, but when he won Brabantse Pijl, the result had an air of inevitability to it. After just four months of the season, 19-year-old Tom Pidcock had his first pro win. It’s rare that a super-talent that is hyped as much as Pidcock has been delivers. Rarer still that they do so in their debut year – and yet that’s exactly what has happened with Pidcock.

He gives Ineos the lynchpin around which to build, the liberating presence of a rider who can get into the elite selection. The belief that the results will come.

For a long time Team Sky was a butt of jokes for being devastatingly good at winning the Tour and hopeless at winning one-days. Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard managed decent classics victories for the team, but it was Wout Poels who finally delivered the franchise’s first monument, Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2016. At the time it came as a moment of catharsis, a long-waited-for proof that this was a team that could do more than crush its enemies to death in France in July.

Now, however, the complexion is different. The team did not win a monument this spring, as it has not done since Poels’ win, but it has delivered some thrilling races – and more than justified its place in these WorldTour one-days.

Kwiatkowski summarised it well, after Liège today.

"No regrets because we did our best - everyone was committed to have a go and to have a win today. Thanks to all of the guys - from Golas and Luke Rowe at the start and Eddie. All of the guys were doing an amazing job. For me it's one of the most enjoyable Ardennes campaigns over the years. We had a really good group and atmosphere. We didn't stop believing we could take that win today. It was a great week and I'm proud of these boys."

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